This Calabrian chili risotto is made with fragrant, spicy Calabrian chilies and creamy mascarpone cheese for a perfectly balanced dish! It's creamy, spicy, light and just SO flavorful! It makes a great lunch on its own or a spicy side dish for a more filling meal!
Risotto is a classic Italian dish of rice cooked with broth until it reaches a super creamy consistency. It falsely has a reputation of difficult or time consuming to make, but it's actually super simple! It can be a tad annoying because you do have to stir it pretty regularly, but that's it!
Risotto is one of my favorite things to make when I want to impress but also but in minimal effort! It’s incredibly easy to make, has amazing depth of flavor, and just seems fancier than other side options. It's also extremely versatile!
What are Calabrian Chilies?
Calabrian chilies are a spicy chili from the Calabria region of Italy. They have a delicious flavor that is spicy, smoky, fruity, and a bit tangy. You can buy whole preserved Calabrian chilies, or crushed Calabrian chilies in oil (my personal favorite).
Calabrian chilies pretty spicy and can pack a punch! For reference, they're about 10 times hotter than jalapenos and most similar in heat to arbol chilies.
If you can't find Calabrian chilies, you can substitute crushed red pepper flakes or harissa paste!
You just need a handful of ingredients to make this spicy Calabrian chili risotto!
Arborio Rice - This recipe is best if you use rice that’s specifically for risotto! Risotto is traditionally made with short grain rice that has a high starch content. This is what gives risotto that super creamy, luxurious texture! Arborio rice is most common but I’ve also made this recipe with loto rice and paella rice and they work great! But always double check the cooking instructions for your rice. This recipe uses a 1:4 rice to liquid ratio but if your rice uses a 1:3 ratio, you’ll want to reduce the liquid by 1 cup.
Calabrian Chilies - These spicy Italian chilies are my favorite way to add some heat to this creamy risotto! I like using the crushed Calabrian chilies in oil, but you can also use the whole chilies and chop them up yourself. You can find Calabrian chilies at Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, World Market, and online!
Tomato Paste - The tomato paste adds some rich tomato flavor to the risotto.
White Cooking Wine - This is optional but adds some great flavor to your risotto! I always keep cheap, dry white wine on hand that I use for cooking. It’s amazing how much flavor a $3 bottle of sauvignon blanc can add to a dish!
Vegetable Stock - I always use my homemade vegetable stock when I make risotto for the best flavor!! You can also use store bought vegetable stock, chicken stock, or even water.
Mascarpone Cheese - The mascarpone makes the risotto super smooth and creamy! Mascarpone is an Italian cheese that's very similar to American cream cheese. It's smooth and soft but more neutral in flavor compared to tangy cream cheese. And in my opinion, that mild flavor makes it much more versatile! But you can also just substitute cream cheese if that's all you can find!
Fresh Basil - The fresh basil adds extra brightness and flavor to the risotto!
The complete list of ingredients and amounts is located in the recipe card below.
How to Make Risotto
In a medium pot, heat your vegetable stock over medium heat until simmering (you can also use a microwave if you're lazy like me). Remove from the heat and set aside.
In a large skillet or stockpot, melt the butter over medium heat and sauté the shallots for about 5 minutes or until soft and fragrant.
Add in the tomato paste and Calabrian chilies (with oil) and continue to sauté for another 2 minutes.
Add in the arborio rice, salt, and pepper and toast, stirring frequently, for about 2 minutes. Then add in the white wine to de-glaze the pan and make sure to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot.
Add in ½ cup of the warmed vegetable stock, and stir the risotto until completely absorbed, then add in another ½ cup and repeat. Continue to add in the stock ½ cup at a time until it's all absorbed and the rice is fully cooked.
Stir in the mascarpone cheese and fresh basil until melted and fully combined.
Garnish the spicy Calabrian chili risotto with a dollop of mascarpone, a drizzle of Calabrian chilies, and fresh basil!
Milder Risotto: This risotto is about a medium spicy, so if you want a milder dish just do 1 tablespoon of Calabrian chilies (or even less)! If the risotto is still too spicy, add a little extra mascarpone cheese.
Spicier Risotto: Add up to 3 tablespoons of Calabrian chilies for a super spicy risotto! I also like to drizzle some extra chilies over top before serving for people who love extra heat.
Store risotto in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Yes, but it won't be as flavorful. If using water, I recommend also using some sort of bullion to enhance the flavor. You can also use chicken broth if you prefer!
Technically yes, but I don't recommend it. Long grain rice will take a little longer to cook and won’t be quite as creamy. Follow the same instructions as below but use 3 cups of water instead. You can also add in ¼ cup of heavy cream towards the end to make the spicy mascarpone risotto extra creamy if desired.
Tips for Success!
For best results I always recommend using weight measurements (especially when baking) because it's the most accurate. Kitchen scales are super affordable and also reduce the number of dishes you have to do! However, all my recipes also include US customary measurements for convince. Use this chart to convert measurements for common ingredients!
Substitutions: In all my recipes, I've included substitutions that I know will work, but I cannot guarantee results if you substitute ingredients that I have not recommended. [For example, granulated sugar and honey are indeed both sweeteners but they have very different properties so they can not always be swapped 1:1. Using honey in a cookie recipe that calls for granulated sugar will yield a giant mess.] In the recipe card you'll find links to the specific ingredients/brands that I use.
A note on salt: I almost exclusively use Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt because it's the best all-purpose salt for cooking and baking. If you're not using kosher salt, consult this handy guide for a conversion chart! When in doubt, if you're using table salt just reduce the amount by half for baked goods. When cooking, I prefer to under-salt because you can always add more! If you've over-salted, adding a little bit of acid (like lemon juice) can help.
More Recipes You Might Like!
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Calabrian Chili Risotto with Mascarpone Cheese
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 small shallot, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons crushed Calabrian chilies, more or less to taste*
- 1 cup arborio rice
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ cup white cooking wine, optional
- 4 cups vegetable stock, substitute chicken stock or water
- 4 ounces mascarpone cheese
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil, thinly sliced
- In a medium pot, heat your vegetable stock over medium heat until simmering (you can also use a microwave if you're lazy like me). Remove from the heat and set aside.
- In a large skillet or stockpot, melt the butter over medium heat and sauté the shallots for about 5 minutes or until soft and fragrant.
- Add in the tomato paste and Calabrian chilies (with oil) and continue to sauté for another 2 minutes.
- Add in the arborio rice, salt, and pepper and toast, stirring frequently, for about 2 minutes. Then add in the white wine to de-glaze the pan and make sure to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot.
- Add in ½ cup of the warmed vegetable stock, and stir the risotto until completely absorbed, then add in another ½ cup and repeat. Continue to add in the stock ½ cup at a time until it's all absorbed and the rice is fully cooked.
- Stir in the mascarpone cheese and fresh basil until melted and fully combined. Taste and adjust seasonings if desired.
- Garnish with a dollop of mascarpone, a drizzle of Calabrian chilies, and fresh basil!
The nutritional information on this website is only an estimate and is provided for convenience and as a courtesy only. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.